Lawrence Frank struck the first blow by setting the tone for the series using a slow-down, trapping zone defense which made the Raptors look more like Pilons than NBA players.
Toronto had some success finally in Game 2 at beating the zone but has still struggled to make shots. The team has shot 40 per cent in its first two games, a good chunk below its 46.3 per cent season average, and really needs some bench help.
It's bench help that should be key for the next two games.
It brought a smile to Franchise's face to hear the ACC faithful chanting "Mo Pete," "Mo Pete," "Mo Pete" in Game 2 after taking a charge and playing some solid defense on Richard Jefferson. I’m expecting to see much more of Peterson in tonight’s match and one has to wonder if Joey Graham’s role will fall behind Juan Dixon as the fourth man off the bench. If Graham does get minutes he absolutely has to make the best of them. Graham was a key contributor for this team down the stretch and getting quality minutes from him will play a role in determining how far this team goes this post-season. As we said before he is an x-factor.
Dixon has had a minimal impact thus far. Hopefully as the series goes on his wrist will heal up and he can provide some clutch baskets ala his days at Maryland.
In any event, New Jersey’s bench is currently outplaying that of the Raptors, something that seemed unthinkable before the start of the series. In fact, Frank hasn’t been afraid to go quite deep in his rotation playing Hassan Adams and even Antoine Wright (if you think Graham is a disappointment try Wright!)
Toronto hasn’t pulled Uros Slokar off the pine yet, but the way they’ve been shooting it's within the realm of possibilities that Luke Jackson get a look. Doubtful because of his terrible D (so key against the NJ wingmen) but possible.
You can’t say enough about Bostjan Nachbar. He has been a solid addition and is very athletic. Already guarding against the offensive threat of Carter and Jefferson, adding Nachbar to the lineup has become a match-up nightmare for the Raptors. Playing Chris Bosh on him forces Bosh out on the perimeter defensively leaving the rim unprotected and taking Toronto’s best rebounder out of the action in the paint.
Unfortunately, the match-up nightmare role in this series was supposed to be filled by Andrea Bargnani however Il Mago through two games has looked lost (maybe just rusty) at sea. Mitchell claims he is looking better in practice as of late but he needs to bring something to the table during the games. Beside Peterson’s play on defense, I think Bargs’ offense is going to be huge in determining the outcome of this series. Can the rookie get up to speed enough to make an impact? His long-range stroke and ability to stretch-out defenses would be huge in dismantling the Nets’ zone but to do that, he needs to start getting quality touches. In the series’ first two games, he was catching the ball in corners and as a result forcing the action. Hopefully in practice since Tuesday Sam Mitchell and co. have been working on this. Chris Bosh and Anthony Parker got the day off on Wednesday so Andrea should have gotten some more reps as the offensive focal point. I’m crossing my fingers that we see some positive results from that tonight. Even if he can't find his stroke he can still impact the game. Let's not forget his passing ability and the fact that he can rebound. All of this has been missing.
Incidentally, Franchise is currently in New York for a friend’s bachelor party. The crew is doing their rain dance hoping the Yanks game they bought tickets to a few months back gets rained in order to cause mayhem at AAA. Trust us when we say these boys will show-up and overpower the 20 Nets fans. As Chris Bosh said on Wednesday "well, after hearing
our fans, we’ll just see how things are in Jersey..."